A funny thing happened this weekend when we were staying at Church Farm in Ardeley. As I was perusing the liquor shelf in the farm shop looking for a little tipple to watch the sun go down, a chap appeared and popped a 'locally produced' label right under my eyes. That was in itself not odd - a lot of the products in the shop are produced on site - the vegetables; meat; eggs and plants. What was odd was that he'd slapped it across the shelf containing vodka!
I joked that I always like to support local, so maybe I should try some, and before I knew it he was beckoning me into his unit to show me the vodka making set-up.
The owner from Georgia was happy to show me around, and generously offered tasters. It was fascinating to learn of the vodka's history. Old Vodka is made using a 200 year old family recipe, of which you could tell he was rightly proud. He was happy to indulge my geeky interest in the still and the sterilising and bottling process - somewhat larger scale than my home brewed wine! We chatted and he let me try some of his latest flavour experiments using spices and fruits.
Tagged 'the taste of freedom' when you hear the history of the family and how they've been making vodka throughout such political turmoil it's easy to see why. Even as an independent state, small business owners still have a tough time in Georgia, which is why they've come here to produce their excellent spirit.
I have to admit, vodka is not my spirit of choice - especially neat, but this was like none I'd tasted before. It was smooth and rounded. They use pure natural spring water from the farm and triple filter to make a pure, clean spirit that's absolutely delicious. It convinced me and I bought a bottle.
A drink this good deserves some special treatment so I made it a cake!
Lemon and vodka seem to be a perfect pairing, and this cake is rich and moist and wickedly decadent. Try it at a grown-up tea party, or as an after-dinner treat. The alcohol is by no means overpowering, and the lemon flavour holds it's own, but slice or two will leave you with a pleasant warming glow in your tummy!
120g softened unsalted butter
120g caster sugar (plus 1 tablespoon)
120g ground almonds
60g self raising flour
4 large free-range eggs
2 tablespoons milk
50g icing sugar
Old Vodka - depending on taste. I used 3 capfuls. That's CAPS not CUPS!
Preheat oven to 180 degrees c. Grease and line a medium cake tin.
Whisk the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Separate your eggs one at a time, adding the yolk to the butter mix and beating, and reserving the whites in a clean bowl. Once you've mixed in your final yolk, add the zest and juice of one lemon. Switch to a spoon now and mix well.
Stir in the flour and almonds until combined and then add the milk. Don't over work it.
Whisk your egg whites with the spoonful of sugar on high until you form soft peaks. A spoonful at a time, add it to your batter, gently folding it in. The rise in the cake will come mostly from the egg whites, so be careful not to knock the air out.
When it's fully mixed, pour into your cake tin and cook in the centre of the oven for approx 40 minutes until it's golden brown.
Leave to cool before removing from the tin. Prick the top all over with a skewer and drizzle the vodka over.
It's best if you wrap in greaseproof paper or foil and leave it overnight before icing.
Zest the remaining lemon and set aside. Then make up the icing using lemon juice and drizzle over. Sprinkle with zest.